Right now, Kevin Harvick hasn’t won the first two races of the third round in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. That makes him needing a victory in a bad way in this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Phoenix International Raceway. The race this weekend is the final race of the Round of 8, as only four drivers will leave PIR this weekend with a chance to win this year’s championship.
By virtue of their wins at Martinsville and Texas the last two weeks, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards are already locked into the final round of this year’s Chase for next weekend at Homestead. If one of the other six championship eligible drivers can win at Phoenix this weekend, they too will have a guaranteed spot leaving just one wildcard slot open.
Harvick, is hoping he’s the next winner.
Luckily, we’re heading to a track that no one has been more dominant at than Harvick. In the last six visits to the desert, Harvick has won five of them including a thrilling last lap pass for the win back in March. Furthermore, Harvick has eight top two’s in his last nine Phoenix starts, so a win or a second place effort on Sunday afternoon isn’t out of the question. In fact, it’s almost a guarantee.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has led 100+ laps in the last five Phoenix races and even 200+ circuits around the one-mile oval in three of the last five races there.
With him needing a win and never being eliminated in the history of this new Chase format, mixed with his strong results lately at Phoenix including never finishing outside the top two since he’s joined SHR, I’d bank of another Harvick win on Sunday afternoon.
That though should make the five other drivers he racing for a final four berth for worried.
Harvick, is currently on the outside looking in on the Chase grid, as he’s a wide 18 points out. If he can win on Sunday though, it means that one of the current two wildcard drivers would definitely be out. Furthermore, Kurt Busch, Harvick’s teammate, who’s 34 points out right now would be eliminated as he’s too far behind to contend for a wildcard spot, meaning the three of the four Joe Gibbs Racing cars would be battling or one spot.
Yes, Johnson, Edwards would automatically be in, Harvick would be in with another Phoenix victory and Kurt Busch eliminated because he’s too far out making three JGR cars battling for just one spot for the championship.
How ironic would that be?
JGR has by far been the most dominant team in all of NASCAR this season. They have 12 victories so far and have led 3,662 of the 9,931 laps so far which is 37-percent of the overall laps. But, 11 of those 12 wins came in the 26 race regular season, as outside of Edwards’ win last weekend, they’ve been virtually shut out of victory lane in the eight Chase races so far.
After winning 42-percent of the races in the 26 race regular season, they’re 1-for-8 in the Chase. That’s why they’re in the position that they’re in heading to Phoenix and it will be very intense around the shop this week and next.
If Harvick can win on Sunday, and it’s a great assumption that he will, it’s down to at least two drivers from JGR being eliminate. This group has to hope to get all four finish in the top 10 with either Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin or Matt Kenseth beating Harvick and the other two doing enough to get in.
Busch is tied with Joey Logano for third in the Chase standings while Kenesth is only one point out. Hamlin is just two points out, as if one of these trio of drivers can win and the other two can do enough to knock Logano out, JGR could have three drivers in the final round of the Chase.